I was tethered to the Huntington Hospital Cancer Center for one year. Now that things are looking up, my two oncologists and my primary physician have given me the green light to take a soliitary road trip.
I'm calling it my Freedom Tour!
My doctors said I could go on two conditions: (1) take a walk every couple of hours and (2) notify them immediately if there is any hint of a medical issue.
On Tuesday, May 31, I hit the road. The first leg of my Freedom Tour took me to Lake Havasu City, Ariz., where my friend and former employee Heather Lovasz lives now. She made delicious homemade soup for dinner, we chatted it up for quite a while and then we hit the hay.
The next morning, Wednesday, June 1, after tea and toast Heather showed me around Lake Havasu, which I had never visited before.
We took this selfie at the fountain in the square of a London-themed village that is near the famous London Bridge.
We pretty much had the place all to ourselves since it was early on a weekday morning. I think I got the money shot through the village gates. You can see the bridge in the background. The themed village is larger than what you can see in the photo.
I wanted to have a Route 66 adventure ever since I started planning my Freedom Tour. Back at Heather's house, her dad Steve showed me how to get to the old Route 66 from Lake Havasu.
At 10:30 a.m. I was on my way! I had a terrific experience on Route 66, away from the big rigs and heavy traffic of Interstate 40. There are vast open spaces of scenic desert and little towns all along the way.
Old Route 66 has thriving businesses that have been there for decades.
For example, this is the Hackberry General Store in tiny Hackberry, Ariz.
Elvis holds court in one section of the eclectic store. (The jukebox really works.)
I ordered a root beer float to go at Delgadillo's Snow Cap in Seligman, Ariz. Boy, did it hit the spot on an extremely hot day!
Many businesses did not survive after the I-40 was built in 1957 and diverted freeway traffic away from Route 66. The ruins, like old fossils, are the only evidence that they ever existed.
Color me surprised when I passed Burma Shave signs in progression along old Route 66! I had no idea there still was such a thing. People of my generation and older will appreciate that.
I passed at least half a dozen of these clever sign series along old Route 66.
I ended my second day in Williams, Ariz., gateway to the Grand Canyon. After swinging by a grocery store to pick up something to make for dinner, I checked in to my hotel and settled in for the night.
Which brings me to yesterday, a day of blessings all the way around.
Yesterday, Thursday, June 2, I drove an hour north to the Grand Canyon and spent about an hour there. I waited patiently at the entrance. The sign said $30 per car, so I had my cash in hand.
The National Park Service ranger at the booth took the money and asked for my ID, then told me it would only be $10 for my car today. He said if I wanted to purchase a special senior pass that's good at any national park in the U.S., I could do so for $20 after filling out an application.
Then he asked if I was traveling alone. I said yes, and he very sweetly asked me to be careful. I told him about my Freedom Tour and how I'm just coming out the other side of breast cancer.
He told me his mother survived breast cancer. Then he handed me a senior pass, gave me a pen with which to sign the back and told me he was giving it to me for free. He said, "It's valid for the rest of your life."
After I thanked him and drove through, I kept repeating that phrase: "The rest of my life." Driving up the road to the Grand Canyon, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I said those words out loud over and over again.
I am enormously grateful that I have a "rest of my life."
Many of you may have seen this photo on Facebook yesterday.
After taking a nice walk along part of the south rim, I had intended on taking a selfie. Then I got in a conversation with a nice woman named Linda, about my age, from Indiana, who said she was on a tour with her husband Bob and their dog Jack.
I told her I was happy they were able to make it, and better late than never. We talked about how spectacular the views are and how the force of God and nature are simply awesome. Then I told her briefly about my Freedom Tour.
She said her sister, whose name is Katie, had just overcome lung cancer after a couple of surgeries and months of treatments, and that Katie had never been a smoker. Just then her husband appeared with Jack. Linda told him about me and my Freedom Tour, and then they asked if they could pray with me.
We prayed together right there on the south rim of this outdoor, natural church, thanking God for his blessings and asking for continued healing and improved health for Katie and me. It was truly a holy moment.
Linda took the photo of me and I took one of Linda, Bob and Jack.
I will be forever grateful for that lovely encounter yesterday.
When I finally arrived last night in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, a suburb of Albuquerque, I asked the magic GPS lady on the satellite in the sky for directions to my hotel, and she guided me in. It was late, about 8:30 p.m., and I was completely exhausted. The only available parking spaces were pretty far from the hotel entrance.
Lugging my heavy laptop (an oldie but a goodie) plus my bag, and walking with the cane that I have to use for balance due to the numbness in my feet caused by chemotherapy, I finally walked through the front doors and approached the front desk, huffing and puffing (but not wheezing, Dr. Manvelyan!).
Then the desk clerk told me the bad news: There was no record of me at that hotel. She said there is another hotel with the same name, in the same chain, just around the corner. She called that hotel and verified that, sure enough, I had a confirmed reservation for last night.
Then she asked me if I had reserved a handicapped room. I said no. She asked the desk clerk at the other hotel if there was an available handicapped room and was told yes.
So off I went, around the corner and down the block, and there it was. I checked in, and the desk clerk said the only available handicapped room was a full suite and that she would give it to me for no extra fee.
So after a very tiring day yesterday, I have been in the lap of luxury since last night, enjoying this very spacious setup and getting a really great night's sleep.
I am so grateful for the kindness of these two desk clerks who went above and beyond what anyone woul have expected of them. By the way, this hotel is Extended Stay America, which definitely deserves a plug!
Which brings me to today.
In a couple of hours I will check out and begin the trek to my next destination: Amarillo Texas, with a few stops along the way, including Santa Fe. I was there about 15 years ago and fell in love with it.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a recap of today's Freedom Tour adventure!